I’ve long had a strange relationship with the the “creative” subculture. I love being challenged by creators (or “creatives” if you prefer); I get excited when I learn about something really cool that someone’s done (especially when it’s something I can build on). But I can’t stand the “snow-flakiness” that tends to exist: this idea that creators are a special breed of people, an elite group who cannot be understood by mere mortals.
So why would i attend a conference all about creativity, then?
Last week, I was in Nashville for Story, the theme of which was “Some Stories Are Real,” referring to JRR Tolkien’s description of the gospel to his friend, C.S. Lewis. I’ve now attended this event three times (previously in 2012 and 2014), and it was a great time—by far my favorite Story experience so far. Here are a couple of key takeaways:
Telling the whole story matters. Blaine Hogan, a creative director at Willow Creek, made a good point: “If you tell your story as ‘I once was lost but now am found and never was lost again,’ you will be telling the world a lie.” We need to be willing to tell the messy side of the story, not in a misguided attempt to be “real”, but to help people move toward wholeness (particularly spiritually). Listening, I was positively encouraged because there is a temptation to try to shape our personal experiences around a narrative that doesn’t make sense. Things don’t always come up Millhouse, and we’ve got to be okay with that.
Passion fades, but love perseveres. Jena Lee Nardella, co-founder of Blood: Water, didn’t really speak much on creativity directly, but she did speak on the need for perseverance. After experiencing a major failure with Blood: Water, she realized much of what she thought was “hope” was actually zeal. It was passion that wasn’t fully grounded. Failure grounded her and helped her see things differently—not with an unbridled or unrealistic optimism, but with a greater understanding of the limits of human ingenuity and the purposes of God. This is important for creators because we learn by failing far more than we do by succeeding. Whether our “art”—be it a book, a song or a spreadsheet—is a passing fancy or something we deeply love is often revealed by how we handle the hiccups.
(And as a side note, I was incredibly encouraged by the maturing outlook on caring for those in need she displayed in her session—as someone who’s been beating the “we’re not called to redeem the world but love it” drum for a long time, it was nice to hear it from someone else.)
What’s the thing you want to do but you’re you’re not doing—and what do you need to do so you can do it? Pete Wilson spoke of pursuing dreams, and reminded us that to do this requires courage. You’re working not only against your own comfort levels, but you’re sometimes working against other people’s ideas of what you should be doing. “God’s got a plan for your life, but so does everybody else,” as he put it. In the same way, James Rhodes reminded us all that creativity isn’t the same as having ideas. Creativity requires action because to be creative means we must create something.
Too many of us say, “I’ve got a book in me,” but don’t do anything about it. What’s stopping us from acting? In the same way, what’s stopping us from taking the initiative and reinventing the process at work that might increase efficiency, or learning to play an instrument, or whatever that thing is for each of us? What needs to change in your life to make it happen? Maybe it’s as simple as admitting that the only thing holding us back is fear. Perhaps it’s more complicated. Whatever it is, we would be wise to consider what we would need to do to be able to pursue that thing we’ve always wanted to. And if we’re not willing to, perhaps it’s time to stop talking about it.
This last point is probably the most important for me, simply because it’s the space I’m in right now. I have a lot of things I want to do, but I’ve been afraid to go ahead and do them. There’s the fear of not having an idea accepted. There’s the fear of the work not connecting with readers. There’s the fear of having to give something up so I can actually work on these great ideas.
And all of that is just dumb. So I’m working through that right now. Where it will lead, I don’t know for certain, but I’ll keep you posted.
Those are just a few thoughts on the conference. If you attended, what were your big takeaways?